There’s a key success factor that all startup professionals, leaders, and founders share: they begin their professional journeys fueled by passion and purpose. That passion gets us through the toughest phases of initializing our plans. But, eventually we hit speed bumps: time passes, energy depletes, outside forces pull in different directions, personal relationships require attention, we fall out of touch, and plans don’t go as planned.
As leaders we feel compound pressure to keep the gears turning not just for ourselves but for everyone who depends on us. For an inside view on how one founder overcomes some of these inevitable challenges, Bruce Holoubek, owner of Contracted Leadership, and Host of The Development Exponent Podcast talks with Luke Perkerwicz, co-founder of the facility management software company AkitaBox.
Feel the Passion
A meaningful profession is created when we feel passion and excitement for what we do. We spend an enormous amount of our lives either in an office or other type of work environment, so if we’re not excited about what we’re doing in that time, the situation becomes old quickly. This is especially relevant when it comes to starting a company or taking an entrepreneurial path, as we give so much more of ourselves in those situations.
Find the People
Secondly, we should be looking to work with people who we enjoy being around, and who help fuel our passion-- people with a shared purpose. The adage that, ‘the people you surround yourself with are the people you end up becoming’ plays out here. We become the average of the five people we spend time with. Aiming to surround ourselves with exceptional people can only elevate our game. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to know you may not be the smartest one in the room, but surrounding ourselves with intellectuals and mentors is a winning strategy. To quote Jim Rohn, “Success leaves clues.”
Forget work-life balance. It’s really about making sure that our work lives and personal lives are aligned. Organizational leaders and founders feel this deeply, as the weight of their decisions affect not just them, but their investments, and the families of their employees and partners. The “work hard, play hard” mantra of the 80’s refers to balance, but we know that in reality life flows interconnectedly. For example, you cannot be a party animal outside of work and then be effective at work.
A lifestyle that includes practices like fueling your body with optimal nutrition, regularly exercising, and making space for inner reflection and attunement to emotions affects our performance in the workplace in everything from how our brains function to how we deal with stress. Similarly, we cannot be overconsumed with work and allow our relationships with partners, children or best friends to suffer. When we feel connected and supported at home we walk into the office on an already elevated plane.
Yet, regardless of how conscientiously we manage our ourselves, we are not immune to all circumstances. If the burnout train is heading our way, a good direction to look to is our network of supporters. They are the people who share our vision and passion. They are the ones who can provide invigoration. Sometimes a reminder of why we’re doing “this” is enough. Other times we may need a trusted partner to co-steer with us. For many executives and founders it is lonely at the top. But if we are able to lean on an advisor, mentor, or co-visionary colleague we can alleviate the burnout.
Likewise, when we are developing emerging leaders on our team, we should encourage them to develop good relationships with their managers and colleagues so that they can have someone to turn to when they are struggling. One common limiting belief of emerging leaders is that they simply don’t know enough. Having a good relationship with a seasoned leader can help an emerging leader feel like they have someone with substance on their court. That backing goes far in helping emerging leaders make braver choices that they would otherwise feel undeserving to make.
Separate to Connect
With all the energy that it takes to propel our careers, and all the mind space that is required to navigate our professional choices, it is imperative to reset. There is a lot of noise in the startup and leadership space-- between mentoring emerging leaders, furthering our own learning and development, and running our organizations, we sometimes become unfocused or depleted. Reconnecting with nature, with life, makes it easier to reconnect with our own purpose (that thing that got us excited and ignited in the first place). In those mindful moments when nature allows us to observe a small animal or a rustling leaf, we rebuild our strength from the inside, and can return the work world as stronger leaders.
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